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Center for Action and Contemplation

Dividing the Field of the Moment

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Nondual Consciousness

Dividing the Field of the Moment
Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Most of us tend to cut every new idea or situation in half and eliminate that which we do not understand or things that are beyond our present experience. Not only do we divide the field of the moment, but we almost immediately judge one half to be superior and one half to be inferior! Watch yourself do this almost automatically. We compare, and as soon as we compare, we compete. Then, as some have said, we also crucify. This is the mental basis of much racism, sexism, war, homophobia, and prejudice.

The Eastern traditions have called this mind game dualistic thinking: where you divide, separate, and conclude what’s up or down, in or out, with me or against me, right or wrong. Pick your category: Catholic or Protestant, black or white, gay or straight. Everyone’s going to find some categories whereby they can divide the world to their liking. And isn’t it convenient that our particular group always happens to be on the up side?! You’d think we would see the inherent narcissism and blindness in this. It leads to some very false and untested assumptions, such as the problematic belief that people who are not in my religion don’t know God or that God doesn’t really love or care about them. Without this foundational insight about our minds (we might call it conversion), much of the world is trapped at this level of “stinking thinking.”

The prevalence of such thinking tells me that religion has not been doing its job. The contemplative mind—nondual consciousness—should be religion’s unique gift to society. Way back in the fourth century, Augustine said, “The church consists of the communion of the whole world.” [1] In other words, wherever there is communion, that’s the church. Wherever there is love, that’s where God is. Even though an official “doctor of the church” said this, most Catholics and Evangelicals would disagree. They’d say the church is comprised of people who belong to our tribe or group, who have been baptized and follow all the proper rituals and believe the right things. This is one of the sad results of dualistic thinking; the mind loves to exclude, eliminate, and constrict inside its supposed certitudes.

One of the signs of nondual consciousness is that you can actually understand and be patient with dualistic thinkers, even though you can no longer return to that straight jacket yourself. The many individuals who have charted the development of consciousness all agree that the lower levels are dualistic and the higher levels become more and more nondual. As we advance in consciousness, we understand reality less in terms of win/lose, either/or, absolute right and absolute wrong. Higher stages of consciousness (or perhaps we should say deeper levels of consciousness) always skillfully include the previous stages. That is what makes them whole and holy.

Gateway to Silence:
Be here now. 

[1] Augustine, On the Unity of the Church: Against the Donatists, 20, 56; PL 43:434.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Exploring and Experiencing the Naked Now (CAC: 2010), disc 2 (CD, DVD, MP3 download);
Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life (Jossey-Bass: 2011), 118;
A New Way of Seeing . . . A New Way of Being: Jesus and Paul (CAC: 2007), disc 1 (CD, MP3 download).

Image Credit: The Incredulity of St. Thomas (detail), by Caravaggio, 1601-1602, Sanssouci, Potsdam.
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